Tea is the second most consumed drink in the world after water. In the UK alone, we have 100 million cups of it daily - that’s 36 billion a year! China is the biggest producer, accounting for 22.8% of the world’s Tea exports, worth $1.5 billion USD, in 2016. But how did we get to this point? Where did it all begin? Who discovered Tea? Let’s find out.

Who Discovered Tea

Who Discovered Tea?

Who discovered Tea? The truth is that no one knows. Despite its popularity, there is a significant amount of mystery surrounding the origins of this much-loved beverage. There is, however, a legend dating back some 5,000 years. A legend that concerns a Chinese Emperor and mythical sage ruler named Shennong 神農 (or Shen Nung).

Folklore suggests that Shennong was an avid herbalist who taught the ancient Chinese the practices of agriculture. A translation of his name can mean “Divine Farmer, “Divine Peasant” or “Agriculture God”. According to these tales, he invented the hoe, plough, axe, irrigation and slash-and-burn methods of farming.

Some people suggest that Shennong was the father of Huang Emperor 黃帝, also known as the Yellow Emperor. Others recognise and worship him as the Medicine King. If he did indeed exist, then the term “Medicine King” could apply to what we now know as Green Tea Benefits. But the question begs: was he real? We’ll let you decide.

What Happened? 
What Happened?

The story begins in 2737 BCE. Shennong, after a day of experimenting with herbs, decided to rest under an unknown tree. He eventually fell asleep in the midday sun with a cup of boiling water by his side. While the Emperor dozed, a gust of wind came through the tree. Leaves fell to the ground, with some landing in Shennong’s drink.

The leaves began to infuse with the water. When Shennong awoke, he discovered a strange, greenish beverage next to him. Intrigued, he decided to try it. The Emperor was delighted by  the scent and delicious taste and of course what would be the discovery of tea. He felt invigorated and refreshed. Without knowing it at the time, Shennong had just discovered Green Tea - or so the tale goes.

Shennong’s Legacy

Shennong’s Legacy

Shennong found the infusion delicious because of its distinct grassy notes. He found it invigorating because of Caffeine in Green Tea. If the Emperor had continued to drink it, he might well have experienced the health benefits of Green Tea. Today, modern science suggests that it can improve cardiovascular health, enhance brain function and reduce the risk of developing several chronic conditions.

It’s unlikely, however, that this story has any truth to it. But does it really matter? One way or another, the legend gave rise to one of the most popular beverages in the world and may have answered the question, who discovered tea. Here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, we strive to honour the myths, legends and stories associated with Tea every day. We stock over 1,000 types of Tea and 80 types of Coffee.